151 Main St., Park City ; 435-645-0636
Unpretentious atmosphere, inventive cooking and good service in Park City.
Cuisine: Italian, Mediterranean
Hours: Su, T-Th, 5-9:30 p.m.; M, F-S, 5-10 p.m.
Liquor: Full Service
Recommended Dishes: Duck three ways, halibut spanakopita, cookies for dessert.
July 4, 2007
Grappa's quality, service and atmosphere hit the spot
By Mary Brown Malouf
PARK CITY -- When you're considering paying $38 for a lamb entree, it's reassuring to know that someone has considered said lamb carefully and given serious thought to its origins, flavor and preparation. In this case, the lamb, on the spring menu at Grappa, was coated with yogurt, encrusted with pistachios and served with a mint raita, or Indian yogurt sauce, and roasted vegetables. The flavors sounded compatible, based on lamb dishes from Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, but we wondered why the menu specified New Zealand lamb, not Utah's own Morgan Valley lamb when the trend in high-end kitchens these days is toward local sourcing.
"Our chef likes the flavor of the New Zealand lamb better than the Morgan Valley," explained the friendly maitre d' who had seated us.
A very simple and acceptable explanation. I still prefer the taste and political implications of eating local ingredients whenever possible, but every artist is entitled to choose his or her medium, and I respect a thoughtful choice. I also greatly respect the kind of restaurant that makes sure its servers are fully informed about the food they are serving.
Not that I ordered the lamb.
Instead, after the prettily presented complimentary amuse-bouche of a succulent PEI mussel peeping out of a rich broth bath in a demitasse cup, I decided on an equally picturesque-sounding dish, the halibut spanakopita ($35). My companion chose the three-way duck ($34).
In between, we ate a salad with shrimp as firm and juicy as perfect cherries ($16) and a super-luxurious special concoction of silky scallops, coddled till the flesh just gelled, topped with ribbons of satiny and utterly politically incorrect foie gras ($20). A glass of Roederer Estate Brut ($13) helped maintain the insouciance. (Although prosecco would have been preferable, more in keeping with the place, our server informed us the cellar was out of the Mionetto listed.)
The halibut arrived, a thick brick of glistening white fish topped with bright green spinach leaves and swaddled in a neat package of papery phyllo dough. Fortunately, the wrapper was flaky, not the fish. Crumbles of feta added a salty spark, and a tzatziki sauce smoothed it all together. Boneless duck breast was sliced into a rosy fan, its skin not as crispy as advertised. The large translucent ravioli nestled next to it were stuffed with duck confit and peaches, the fruit's sweet tartness segueing smoothly from the fatness, and a slick of brandy-spiked foie gras sauce counted as the third way.
Altogether, our dinner at Grappa was enhanced by the service of obvious professionals -- people who were clearly knowledgeable about the food and wine they were serving and how to serve it gracefully. They should be -- Grappa is part of Bill White's successful Park City restaurant group, the others being Chimayo, Wahso, Ghidotti's and Windy Ridge Café.
It takes a waiter with strong calf muscles to work at Grappa. Park City, like most Rocky Mountain mining towns, is vertically inclined. In days past, instead of flattening the hills to make suitable retail and condo building sites, towns just adapted their architecture to the verticality. Grappa, in what seems to be an old hotel dating from the town's pre-resort days, is architecturally adapted to steepness. It fits cozily into its steep Main Street space, the restaurant covering an unwieldy and charming three floors and tiers of terraces.
We sat on the lowest of these, still a half-story above the street, and enjoyed a brilliantly simple dessert of cookies ($10) and, what else, grappa.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.